Tag Archives: J&K

Is Kashmir actually the jugular vein for Pakistan? 13 May 2014

General Raheel Sharif, with stick, surveying the Line of Control, December 2013. http://kashmirglory.com/pak-army-chief-visit-loc/

Is Kashmir actually the jugular vein for Pakistan?     13 May 2014
Surprisingly, the leader of the Pakistan Army, General Raheel Sharif, once again recently talked about ‘Kashmir’ being the ‘jugular vein’ for Pakistan. Given that the ‘k’ in the acrostic ‘Pakistan’ stands for ‘Kashmir’—i.e., the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) popularly called ‘Kashmir’ after its most famous part, the Kashmir Valley—General Sharif’s statement appeared significant. But was it?

The jugular vein is important, even vital, to a human being’s wellbeing. It is a highly significant vessel that transfers a human’s blood between two major human organs, the brain and the heart. Sever this vein and a human being will die, or can be killed, exceedingly quickly. One way to sever the jugular vein is by cutting someone’s throat. A victim dies quickly after such a brutal action, with significant medical attention needed almost immediately in order to save them. The importance of the jugular vein therefore suggests a number of things re J&K and Pakistan. First, that they share the same, indeed identical, blood. Second, that they are part of the same body and are joined or unified by this important blood vessel. Third, that should this ‘vein’ ever be severed, both the ‘upper’ region of J&K and the ‘downstream’ or geographically lower nation of Pakistan will quickly die.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah possibly first publicised the seemingly biologically-significant relationship between J&K and Pakistan. He apparently first used the ‘jugular vein’ term to describe the inalienable link between princely J&K and the new nation of Pakistan. Allegedly, Jinnah said that “From the political and military
standpoints, Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan. No independent
country and nation can tolerate the handing over of its jugular vein
to the enemy.” I say ‘allegedly’ as the founder of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, Amunallah Khan, contests this statement, claiming that Jinnah favoured independence for J&K. Khan is partly right: the All-J&K Muslim Conference, which was heavily influenced by, and ostensibly subordinate to, Jinnah’s All-India Muslim League, only came out in favour of J&K joining Pakistan as late as 22 July 1947, less than four weeks before the British left India. Beforehand, the (seemingly biologically-ignorant) Muslim Conference had favoured an independent J&K. Afterwards, in the minds of Muslim Conference and Muslim League members, J&K and Pakistan became vitally and inextricably linked. This transplanted the J&K-Pakistan relationship.

Thus, from late July 1947, pro-Pakistan J&K-ites and Pakistanis considered J&K to be of vital importance to Pakistan. Some reasonable reasons existed for this belief. First, J&K was a 77 per cent Muslim-majority princely state whose people Pakistani politicians (falsely) believed would naturally favour J&K joining Muslim Pakistan—not secular India, as finally happened, chiefly because the accession decision resided with the ruler of J&K, Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, not J&K-ites. Second, three of the major rivers that flow into Pakistan and provide it with vital irrigation water for agriculture and human survival flow through J&K: the Chenab, Jhelum and Indus. Third, on 17 August 1947, when the India-Pakistan border was officially announced, J&K obtained a long border with Pakistan and a short one with India, suggesting that J&K would unite with Pakistan. This situation changed dramatically when Hari Singh acceded to India on 26 October 1947, after which J&K in its entirety legally became part of the Indian Union. Actually, fighting that had started as early as August 1947, and which increased dramatically thereafter, had already divided the princely state into pro-Pakistan and pro-India areas. A few J&K-ites favoured independence for J&K. Post-accession, Indian J&K actually comprised Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh; Pakistan-Administered J&K consisted of Azad (Free) Kashmir and the Northern Areas (now called Gilgit-Baltistan). Since 1947—and despite J&K’s supposed vital importance to Pakistan—this nation has survived reasonably well politically, economically and socially without possessing all of J&K, or its most prized part, the Kashmir Valley.

How could this be? One major reason is because the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan has successfully regulated, and minimised, water matters between them. Basically, this treaty has taken the heat out of the water issue (to mix a metaphor), with upstream India consistently providing downstream Pakistan with agreed amounts of water annually, for over 40 years. This has largely placated Pakistani fears that India may turn the water off, or on, depending on the issue and time of year. A second reason is that, for both Pakistan and India, the area of desire, and contestation, has always been the Kashmir Valley—even though most Kashmiris probably don’t want to join either nation. Pakistanis have never really been interested in obtaining the Indian-controlled areas of Hindu-dominant Jammu and Buddhist-Shia-populated Ladakh. Thus, if ‘Kashmir’—by which Islamabad invariably means the Kashmir Valley—is the jugular vein, then these ‘lesser’ or non-Muslim-majority areas are expendable limbs the loss of which won’t kill the body.

This suggests that ‘Kashmir’ is Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ almost exclusively in Pakistani military minds. They demand such a scenario. Without the bitter, expensive India-Pakistan contest over Kashmir, Pakistan would not need to maintain an expensive, aggressive, politically-interventionist, essentially uncontrollable standing army of 550,000 soldiers and 500,000 reserves. Pakistan would still need an army, but this force would be smaller—and less influential. Therefore, General Sharif was using the ‘jugular’ term to remind three ‘constituents’ of the Pakistan Army’s importance, intentions/desires, and/or ‘spoiling’ power: Pakistani politicians, who need to remember their (inferior) place; Pakistani soldiers, who need to ensure their (superior) place; and India, which needs to understand that the Pakistan Army still desires Kashmir. In reality (and mauling some English), for the Pakistan Army, Kashmir is the ‘pugular’ vein (as in pugilism or fighting), ‘mugular’ vein (as in treating a person—in this case, the average Pakistani—as a mug, or idiot) or ‘tugular’ vein (as in a tug-o-war). Kashmir is not, and has never been, of vital life-or-death significance for Pakistan. The proof is that this region has been effectively and successfully separated from Pakistan since October 1947.

Christopher Snedden
13 May 2014


Mediating the Kashmir dispute? 11 February 2014


Mediating the Kashmir dispute     11 February 2014

A surprising recent media report suggested that the United Nations was prepared to mediate the Kashmir dispute. The story arose because, during the ‘Daily Press Briefing’ by the Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General in New York, Mr Farhan Haq (photo above), a journalist called ‘Masood’ asked Haq about the India-Pakistan dispute over Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Haq’s answer was reported—not totally accurately.

Because the context is important, I have reproduced below the brief exchange on 6 February 2014 between Mr ‘Masood’ and Mr Haq. (Original transcript at www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2014/db140206.doc.htm.)

Question [by journalist]: Yes, Farhan. Today, in Pakistan, there were all these demonstrations on Kashmir, asking for India and Pakistan to resolve this issue as soon as possible. The Pakistani Prime Minister says that he’s willing to listen to anything that India has proposed. Can the Secretary-General, or will the Secretary-General propose to India to at least sit down and talk with Pakistan, because that is what it’s not doing. Even… there’s no dialogue. They don’t even want to talk. So the situation will stand at a stalemate forever.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Masood, as you know, on Kashmir, as with another of conflicts around the world, our good offices are available if both sides were to request that. And that remains the case today.

Question [by journalist]: So… the stalemate will continue forever?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: You’re aware of what our principle is in terms of the use of UN good offices, and that remains the case in this particular case. Do you have a question? Yes, Joe? [who then asked a question about Syria].

The journalist’s question occurred on the same day as Pakistan’s annual ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ commemorations held throughout Pakistan. Either it was asked out of genuine concern for J&K-ites’ wellbeing or it was designed to make mischief. It certainly put Haq in a difficult situation. According to a 2010 report on DNA (www.dnaindia.com/world/report-un-secretary-general-spokesperson-defends-farhan-haq-over-kashmir-row-1420100), Haq’s boss, Martin Nesirky, Chief Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, was forced to defend Haq who was then at the ‘centre of the controversy, against attacks in the Indian press that suggested Haq was responsible for the remarks concerning the violence in Kashmir, which came out of the United Nations on July 28’ 2010. Defending his colleague, Nesirky ‘slammed the Indian press for suggesting Haq’s “ethnicity” [w]as a possible motivation for the remarks on Kashmir, which New Delhi has strongly objected to. Haq is an American citizen born in Washington DC with roots in Pakistan.’ Some therefore perceive Haq as a pro-Pakistan interlocutor.

The current story, however, is a ‘storm in a teacup’. Haq’s exchange with the journalist, Masood, was brief: 150 words out of the 2700-word press conference report, most of which (92 words) Masood spoke. Their exchange also was a one-off matter to which neither party, nor any other party, returned for clarification or to debate. Haq appeared to be factual, not biased.

Haq also did not specifically say that the UN was ‘prepared to mediate on the Kashmir dispute’. Rather, he stated that the United Nations’ ‘good offices are available if both sides were to request that’. The UNTERM website states that ‘A theoretical distinction exists between good offices and mediation. … good offices consist in various kinds of action tending to call negotiations between the conflicting States into existence, mediation consists in direct conduct of negotiations between the parties at issue on the basis of [a] proposal made by the mediator’.

Regardless of terminology, India almost certainly will not invoke the UN’s good offices, let alone mediation, in the Kashmir dispute. New Delhi is not interested in any further third-party involvement. Its ‘fingers’ have been ‘burnt’ before. In 1948, India was disappointed when the UN Security Council failed to condemn, as India saw it, Pakistan’s aggression in 1947 in J&K. In 1968, India felt cheated when arbitrators resolving ‘The Indo-Pakistan Western Boundary (Rann of Kutch)’ awarded ten per cent of the disputed area to Pakistan—despite New Delhi’s strong belief that India obtained sovereignty over all of Kutch in 1947. (Interestingly, that arbitration involved the UN General Secretary’s good offices as he appointed the chairman and oversaw the process.) Due to these experiences, India determined that third party involvement did not provide the results it desired or deemed reasonable. In 1972, it therefore agreed the Simla Agreement with Pakistan. Since then, for India, the Kashmir dispute has been a bilateral issue to be resolved by it and Pakistan only. Forget any third parties.

The latest attempt to involve the United Nations appeals to ‘separatist leaders’ in J&K, particularly in the Kashmir Valley. It also suits Pakistan, which appears keen to resolve the Kashmir dispute, either by getting other parties involved, or re-involved in the UN’s case, or by ‘encouraging’ India to move on this matter, even slightly. Seemingly, this latter is Pakistan’s greatest challenge—even though I am led to believe that official Indian and Pakistani interlocutors are currently engaging in secret and unreported ‘back channel communications’, including about J&K.

People often ask how India can be ‘encouraged’ to move on J&K. This is difficult to answer. India is a large, increasingly economically-powerful nation that has what it, and Pakistan, want in J&K: the much desired Kashmir Valley. I suggest three ways:

1) For Indians and Pakistanis to develop active, popular and powerful ‘compelling constituencies’ of people who mount a consistent, prolonged campaign to compel their governments to resolve the Kashmir dispute;

2) That Indians and Pakistanis, and their governments, actively support second track diplomats who genuinely seek a solution to the Kashmir dispute;

3) Controversially—and this is not my idea—that Pakistan make a Big Unilateral Gesture (BUG) which, in a Gandhian-type way, imposes moral and international pressure on India to respond positively towards Pakistan, including about J&K. One such BUG would be for Pakistan to unilaterally withdraw from Siachen Glacier.

Neither of the above options are easy—nor do I expect any movement soon.

Christopher Snedden
11 February 2014

Is there a J&K Identity? 7 February 2014



Is there a J&K Identity?     7 February 2014

A big South Asian issue is people’s national identity. Individuals, states, or disgruntled citizens aspiring to acquire statehood, all have some factor that encourages, causes or forces them to cohere. This factor may be shared history, geography, religion, culture or language—actual or perceived. Sometimes, however, people’s identities, and their associated aspirations, are contested, unrequited or suppressed by the state. Some subcontinental instances include Sikhs in India, Pakistani Muslims, and J&K-ites in militarily- and politically-divided Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

Historically, as the British departed the subcontinent in August 1947, they imposed new identities on subcontinentals, all of whom previously had been ‘Indians’. Local politicians, chiefly in the Congress Party and the Muslim League, agreed to this imposition. One significant group that lost out in 1947 was Sikhs, with large numbers (along with Hindus) moving from western Punjab, which became part of Pakistan, to join brethren located in northern India. The Sikhs’ move occurred partly because, unlike Hindus and Muslims, they failed to obtain a separate homeland in 1947. Given their stark choice of staying in ‘Islamic’ Pakistan or joining ‘Hindu’ India, Sikhs in western (Pakistani) Punjab chose India. They felt more compatibility with Hindus than with Muslims, partly because many Indians considered the Sikh ‘religion’ to be a sub-set of Hinduism, even though Sikhs had sought to assert themselves otherwise from the 1900s. Some Sikhs thereafter displayed disgruntlement with New Delhi a number of times. In 1966, the Indian Government placated this identifiable, and militarily- and economically-important religious minority by dividing greater (Indian) Punjab into a smaller Sikh-dominated state of Punjab, and the neighbouring states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. In the 1980s, motivated by religion and feeling alienated, some Sikhs sought an independent Sikh nation of Khalistan, or the Land of the Pure, a slight to Hindus’ desire to practice ritual purity and to the Urdu meaning of the word ‘Pakistan’. In 1984, New Delhi militarily defeated these Sikhs by storming the Golden Temple and, thereafter, by utilizing effective, but often brutal, police actions. Placated, Sikhs currently appear to be content being Indian citizens.

Sometimes a group’s identity may be contested. This is currently happening with considerable violence in Pakistan. For many years after 1947, Pakistanis debated whether Pakistan should be a state for Muslims or an Islamic state. During General Zia’s rule of Pakistan (1997-1988), Pakistanis increasingly appeared to want Pakistan to be an Islamic state. In recent years, the debate has been to determine the version of Islam that Pakistanis and their nation should follow. Concurrently, Pakistani Muslims of various persuasions and intensities have been seeking to impose their interpretation of Islam on the nation and its people, 95 per cent of whom profess to be Muslims. Some groups, such as Sufis or moderate Muslims, have engaged in a non-violent struggle. Other groups comprising Sunnis, such as the Taliban or the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba (the Army of the Prophet’s Companion), motivated by ‘fundamentalist’ interpretations of Islam such as Deobandi, Salafi, Wahabi, Ahl-e-Hadith or even Barelvi (which supposedly is more tolerant), have been seeking to impose their will by violent means. Increasingly, these hardline Islamic elements have brutalised Pakistanis. Particular targets have been Shias, who comprise some 20 per cent of Pakistanis, and Ahmadiyyas, both of which groups are considered to be apostates by hardline Sunnis. Sometimes Christians and Hindus have been targetted, including by invoking Pakistan’s (pro-Islam) Blasphemy Law. In some areas, Islamic hardliners also have targetted liberal or moderate Pakistanis engaging in activities deemed to be unacceptable. This includes ‘shrine worship’, dancing or movie-going. Similarly, deadly terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, collaterally have killed or harmed innocent Sunni Pakistanis. The Taliban’s violent anti-social campaign has been so successful that its representatives are now engaging in peace talks with the Pakistan Government.

Although the issue of how ‘Islamic’ the Islamic Republic of Pakistan should be is far from resolved, the Pakistan Government-Taliban talks legitimize and empower the Taliban. Conversely, they make moderate Pakistanis—who comprise the bulk of Pakistan’s citizens—nervous. The serious issue of Taliban-type violence could claim further ‘victims’, physically and politically, in Pakistan. Caution is required. As disgruntled East Pakistanis/Bangladeshis showed in 1971, Islam is not a monolith. Similarly, disgruntled Muslim Balochis, some of whom, despite their religion, want independence from ‘Islamic’ Pakistan, could further split this nation. The Balochis’ cause would be enhanced if ever the Pakistan Army has to fight its various opponents—Taliban; Balochis; Indians; anti-Pakistan forces in Afghanistan; even hardline Islamic elements in Punjab—concurrently on numerous fronts. Time will tell.

Sometimes a group’s identity may be foisted upon it. Consider India’s Untouchables or Dalits and Pakistan’s Mohajirs (refugees from India and their descendants). A third ‘group’ is J&K-ites whose circumstances since October 1947 have compelled them to regard themselves as Indians or Pakistanis. Recently, when talking in Islamabad with some J&K-ites from both sides of the Line of Control (LOC), I (surprisingly) discovered that they have a sense of a distinct J&K identity. This arises because their forebears were subjects in the unified princely state of J&K that existed from 1846 to 1947. (Interestingly, J&K’s total ‘age’ of 101 years makes it a third older than post-partition India and Pakistan.) Over time, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front’s pursuit of independence for all of the former princely state has helped to rekindle a J&K identity. J&K-ites have been coalesced by India and Pakistan’s inability to resolve the Kashmir dispute—to J&K-ites’ detriment. A final, and important, factor has been the India-Pakistan agreement to open crossing points in J&K to allow J&K-ites to travel to, and trade with, the other ‘side’. This has enabled J&K-ites to get know one another again.

Any development of a post-1947 J&K identity has ramifications for India and Pakistan, particularly should this identity become widely entrenched among J&K-ites. Both nations may find themselves having to deal with an increasingly ‘together’, in more ways than one, group of J&K-ites. This, vicariously, could weaken their respective positions in relation to obtaining control of this bitterly contested region.

Christopher Snedden
7 February 2014

Has the Kashmir dispute been temporarily resolved? 29 January 2014

Has the Kashmir dispute been temporarily resolved?     29 January 2014

Having been in Islamabad for a few days, I have been pondering whether the Kashmir dispute has been temporarily resolved. In the last few years, we have seen little substantial diplomatic movement by either India or Pakistan to actively try to resolve this vexed and seemingly intractable issue. Indeed, India-Pakistan relations have worsened in the last year due to some serious and unsavoury incidents across the Line of Control that have upset Indians, particularly some in the Indian Army. Most recently, in J&K itself, trade across the Line of Control has ceased due to India’s arrest of a truck driver from the other ‘side’ who allegedly has smuggled narcotics. In response or retaliation, Pakistan has detained 27 truck drivers from the Indian side. Trade has been suspended for two weeks as officials locally and in New Delhi and Islamabad try to resolve the matter.

More broadly and despite Pakistan’s new leadership, New Delhi has been occupied dealing with other international and domestic issues. Internationally, India is engaging with, and being wooed by, an array of nations seeking to couple their bilateral relations with, and to benefit from, India’s seemingly slow but inevitable progress towards being a great power. Locally, Indian politicians have been positioning themselves and their parties for the forthcoming Indian elections. Consequently, New Delhi seemingly has little time or interest to deal with Islamabad in a serious or substantive way on advancing any of the major India-Pakistan issues, with the possible exception of trade. Similarly, some Pakistanis are concerned that India’s potential prime minister, Narendra Modi, who they believe is a hardline anti-Pakistani, may not ‘give an inch’ on any issue, especially J&K.

It is too early to predict the outcome of the Indian elections. Furthermore, given the nature of politics, it remains to be seen how hardline Mr Modi will, or actually can, be, should he become India’s prime minister. Currently, however, Islamabad has not been able to advance the India-Pakistan relationship, except rhetorically. Nawaz Sharif has talked of wanting to normalise Pakistan’s relations with India, which has been helpful. Yet, despite being a businessman and politician, he has not been able to bring himself to grant India the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status that would normalise the India-Pakistan trade relationship. This is partly because some Pakistanis object to this terminology, believing (incorrectly) that such a move will grant India special privileges. Equally, Sharif’s seeming reluctance to deal positively with India may partially be explained because he is waiting to see which Indian leader with whom Pakistan will eventually have to deal.

Sharif’s reluctance also reflects some indecisiveness in Pakistan as it grapples with a number of other issues. These include whether to fight the anti-social Tehreek-e-Taliban (Pakistan Taliban) or to negotiate with them or to undertake both activities simultaneously; how to successfully, and as painlessly as possible, address Pakistan’s major internal economic, social and political woes, particularly in places such the ethnic and political hotspot of Karachi, the backward and Taliban-infested Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in perennially disgruntled Balochistan; and, dealing with the inevitable tension and instability that will arise in post-ISAF Afghanistan and which invariably will impact on Pakistan, most probably negatively.

The serious matter of post-ISAF Afghanistan is, arguably, the issue engaging Islamabad’s strategic planners the most. It seems to me that they are very concerned about Pakistan having to deal with some potentially serious instability on its western wing while still having to confront a somewhat assertive India on their heavily-militarised eastern border. The recent United States-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue will make Pakistanis feel a little more comfortable with their strategic situation—but only a little. They remain terribly concerned about, and focused on, India, about which they obsess and to which they invariably, but unnecessarily, compare Pakistan.

As a result, we are seeing a short term, and somewhat clever, strategy by Pakistan in relation to the Kashmir dispute. This strategy involves seeking stability in the east by not pushing to resolve the J&K issue with India while, concurrently, saying publically and more often that Pakistan does not want J&K but that, instead, it wants ‘Kashmiris’ to be able to have an act of self-determination to decide their international status. By Kashmiris, the Pakistanis seemingly mean all of the people of J&K, although Islamabad’s focus appears to be on the Indian-controlled Kashmir Valley and the serious human rights violations there. This is the clever part of the strategy: Pakistan is attempting to take the ‘high moral ground’ by focusing on what it considers to be India’s serious and diabolical actions in the Kashmir Valley against ethnic Kashmiris. New Delhi is assisting Islamabad by not actively and openly pursuing human rights violations and by recently allowing the Indian Army to close an investigation into five soldiers accused of killing five supposed ‘terrorists’ in Anantnag in 2000.

Equally, clever, Islamabad is magnanimously wanting to empower the long-suffering but politically-expendable people of J&K (particularly those in the clearly non-pro-Pakistan regions of Jammu and Ladakh) to let them decide their fate. This makes Islamabad appear to be a paragon of virtue in relation to empowering ‘native’ peoples (i.e. J&K-ites) and their inalienable rights to self-determination. Nevertheless, only two options appear to remain available to J&K-ites: join J&K either with India or with Pakistan. Independence, which some, perhaps many, J&K-ites desire for J&K is not an option.

Pakistan’s strategy is likely to be in place until Afghanistan becomes sufficiently stable or until a regime emerges in Kabul that is to Pakistan’s liking. While clever, it could backfire as others highlight Pakistan’s own human rights violations and/or lack of allowing self-determination to people in places such as Balochistan. In relation to the Kashmir dispute, it means that we are unlikely to see very little movement in the next few years. This could change if there is a major post-election political and mindset shift in New Delhi. Otherwise, there is no pressing imperative for India and Pakistan to resolve their dispute over J&K. Therefore, effectively—although neither actually nor efficiently—the Kashmir dispute would appear to be ‘resolved’ for the next few years.

Christopher Snedden
29 January 2014

Actual and Perceptional ‘Borders’ in J&K 22 January 2014



Map above from The Economist, 8 February 2012, www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/05/indian_pakistani_and_chinese_border_disputes


Actual and Perceptional ‘Borders’ in J&K     22 January 2014

The dispute over the international status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is old, complicated and convoluted. India and Pakistan have been engaged in this matter emotionally, diplomatically and militarily from before the British left the Indian subcontinent in August 1947. J&K was then important to them because the princely state—commonly called ‘Kashmir’ after its most famous region—was prestigious. In 1947, J&K was India’s largest princely state. It had international borders with Afghanistan, China and (then independent) Tibet; the USSR’s Tajikistan Republic was nearby to the north. Some major rivers flowed through J&K: the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Finally, J&K would share post-partition borders with Pakistan and India, albeit short with India, with both nations wanting to include the princely state in their territory.

In the finish, neither nation secured all of J&K. Since 1947, the former princely state has been militarily-divided between India, which controls Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, and Pakistan, which administers Azad (Free) Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. China controls two areas nominally under J&K’s control in 1947: Aksai Chin and Shaksgam. Officially, India claims all of the territory ‘occupied’ by Pakistan and China because the ruler of J&K, Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, acceded to India on 26 October 1947. For New Delhi, all of J&K is an ‘integral part of India’. Pakistan is administering ‘its’ areas until a United Nations-supervised plebiscite can be held to determine whether the people of J&K want ‘their’ state, in its entirety, to join India or Pakistan. India and China, as part of their ongoing territorial and border negotiations, are discussing Aksai Chin. Beijing has said that it will renegotiate its control of Shaksgam should India and Pakistan resolve their dispute over J&K.

Interestingly, but problematically, India and Pakistan each has a different perception as to what comprises the former princely state. Official Indian maps show all of J&K as being Indian territory, even though civilian Indians have never set foot in areas outside India’s control: Azad Kashmir; Gilgit-Baltistan; Aksai Chin; Shaksgam. Official Pakistani maps show the Gilgit Agency as not being part of the ‘disputed territory’ of J&K. (Such maps also often show Junagadh and Manavadar, whose rulers acceded to Pakistan in 1947, as being Pakistan’s.) Although the British controlled the Gilgit Agency from the 1880s, they publicly returned (or retroceded) control of this territory to the Maharaja of J&K on 1 August 1947. Therefore, Gilgit is part of J&K, and of the Kashmir dispute.

India is fussy about maps of J&K, with New Delhi sometimes insisting that publications must use its official map of the former princely state. In 2012, New Delhi censored editions of The Economist that included a map showing the actual situation on the ground in disputed J&K  (like the map above), rather than showing all of J&K as being Indian territory. For this reason, I chose not include any maps in my book about Azad Kashmir that was published internationally in 2012, and in Pakistan and India in 2013.

Another issue is terminology. The India-Pakistan dispute over J&K is known as ‘the Kashmir dispute’ because, when the princely state was created in 1846, the most prestigious and reasonably autonomous part of the entity was Kashmir. Fairly quickly thereafter, both J&K and its rulers came to be called ‘Kashmir’. For this reason, although the dispute over J&K should be called the ‘Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, it is known instead as the ‘Kashmir dispute’. Otherwise, when Indians use the term ‘Kashmir’, they are referring to the Kashmir Valley that India controls and which Pakistan desires. For Indians, residents of Kashmir are ethnic Kashmiris. When Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmir’, they may be referring to the Kashmir Valley. More often, they are referring to the entire former princely state. Similarly, when Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmiri’, they may be referring to an ethnic Kashmiri. More often, they are referring to a resident of the former princely state. Pakistanis also talk of an ‘Azad Kashmiri’. This is a resident of the ‘Azad Kashmir’ region who, more often than not, is not an ethnic Kashmiri.

Neither India nor Pakistan knows how—nor seemingly is prepared—to resolve their dispute over J&K. Pakistan officially wants the UN plebiscite held, which is untenable for India. Conversely, India wants it and Pakistan to resolve this bilateral matter, although unofficially Pakistan might like mediation by a third party, possibly the United States, which also is untenable for India. However, the Kashmir dispute already has trilateral aspects. J&K-ites (my term for the people of J&K) are the third party to this dispute. Furthermore, in 1963, Pakistan ceded territory that India considers to be its to China; since 1948, the UN Security Council has been involved with India and Pakistan re J&K and could, if desired, re-open this matter sidelined since 1965; and, the UN has its Military Observer Group that monitors the Line of Control that divides J&K into Indian and Pakistan-administered areas.

Having been involved analysing the Kashmir dispute since 1984, I know that this issue generates considerable argument among Indians, Pakistanis and J&K-ites. Surprisingly, I have found only one matter about which India and Pakistan agree in their entire dispute over J&K: that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can have independence. This ‘agreement’ is counter to the azadi (independence) that some, perhaps many, J&K-ites living in places such as Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Mirpur, may desire. That said, we don’t know what status, or statuses, J&K-ites actually want as they have never been asked this question in any inclusive or conclusive way. Indeed, J&K-ites are the forgotten element of the Kashmir dispute—even though they actually instigated the fight over J&K’s international status before India or Pakistan was officially involved in the state and even though this fight is over their lands. This makes J&K-ites the first party to the Kashmir dispute—a fact not recognised, or forgotten, by India and Pakistan. When it comes to J&K, there is little agreement between anyone, it seems.

Christopher Snedden
22 January 2014

Climate and ‘climate change’ in J&K; 6 January 2014

Dras 2

Climate and ‘climate change’ in J&K; 6 January 2014

Newspapers are reporting that the divided state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is experiencing its annual cold spell. Quoting a ‘weather official’, the Kashmir Times (http://kashmirtimes.com/newsdet.aspx?q=27308) states that ‘The minimum temperature [in Indian J&K] was 12.4 degrees Celsius below the freezing point in Pahalgam last night [4 January] – [the] coldest [place] in the Kashmir Valley. It was 4.2 degrees Celsius below zero in Srinagar and minus 9.8 degrees Celsius in Gulmarg … Leh town recorded a minimum of minus 8.6 degrees Celsius and Kargil recorded minus 16.1 degrees … The minimum temperature in Jammu city was 5.6 degrees – two degrees below what is normal for this time of the season’. Pakistani newspapers have reported ‘cold spells’ throughout Pakistan and Pakistan-Administered J&K, including many temperatures below zero and road closures in northern Azad Kashmir. The Pamir Times, Gilgit, has reported that protesters in a local dispute in the Chilas area have blocked the Karakoram Highway, stranding ‘commuters … in sub-zero temperature[s]’ (http://pamirtimes.net/2012/01/11/kkh-blockade-enters-third-day-thousands-of-commuters-suffer-in-cold-weather/).

J&K has a diverse range of climates, ranging from extremely elevated and cold regions in its north and north-east, including glacial areas, to more monsoonal and temperate regions around Jammu and Mirpur at the northern end of the Punjab plains. While Jammu city in J&K’s south is far warmer than other parts of Indian J&K, this state includes the town of Drass (or Dras), which is supposedly the second coldest inhabited place in the world. Drass experiences extreme cold from mid-October to mid-May, with average lows around −22°C, although temperatures have gone as low as −45°C. Such temperatures, plus invariable associated road closures, impair India’s ability to move military materiel to troops stationed in Ladakh where they patrol the Siachen Glacier area or defend against Chinese forces across the Line of Actual Control. Similarly, the effects of cold weather often block the important Srinagar-Jammu road, making the transport of goods and people to or from Kashmir impossible for periods of time. In the depths of winter, air transport to J&K also is often hampered by bad weather, with flights to places such as Srinagar or Gilgit delayed or cancelled. On such occasions—which I, at times, have experienced—one realises how isolated and remote many of the people of J&K are, particularly those living beyond the Pir Panjal range in the Kashmir Valley, or in even more remote locations such as Gilgit or Ladakh.

Winter in the popular tourist destination of the Kashmir Valley is interesting—and cold (for an Australian, at least). Interestingly, Kashmir has ski fields at Gulmarg, although visitor numbers are down this year. Apart from this resort, few visitors come to Kashmir in winter. Traditionally, Kashmir’s cold weather starts on 21 December. It lasts for 72 days and can be divided into three periods: chillai kalan, extreme cold of forty days; chillai khurd, the ‘small cold’ of twenty days; and chillai baccha, the ‘baby cold’ of ten days. And it is cold! I remember once sleeping under a swathe of blankets and quilts in a Srinagar bed in the depths of winter and being extremely reluctant the next morning to get up and go out into the freezing air. Outside the warm house, the city was awash with a mixture of foot-chilling snow, ice and motor-induced slush. I needed warm and water-proof boots, coat and headwear to walk around for any period of time. Thermal underwear or a Kashmiri kangri (a small portable pot filled with warming charcoal embers) was helpful at such times. I experienced similar conditions in Muzaffarabad in winter, but not as cold.

Every year, northern India, northern Pakistan and all of J&K experience varying degrees of cold weather for differing lengths of time, with it generally being colder the more northerly one goes. And, although northern parts of the subcontinent, including J&K, are currently experiencing chilly spells, I have not seen reports that these are un-seasonally cold or that they are due to the impacts of climate change. Nevertheless, some people consider that climate change is causing Himalayan glaciers, many of which are located in J&K, to melt. In the short term, this will make more water available for people downstream. Ultimately, it could result in a major change to J&K’s climate and environment. Other issues in J&K possibly associated with climate change are hotter summers, variable or erratic snowfalls, and reduced rainfall during agriculturally productive warmer months, with paddy and saffron yields down in recent years. Consequently, the Indian J&K Government is taking the issue of climate change seriously. Last December, it presented a draft Action Plan on Climate Change to India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The issue of climate change in J&K, and certainly in relation to the Kashmir region, is not a new one. I recently came across an article in the Science journal from 1907 (Vol. XXV, No. 629, January 18, 1907) that discussed ‘The climate [in the Vale of Kashmir]’. It was described in 1905 ‘as [being] warm and damp from June to August, though but little rain falls; mild and delightful in April, May, September and October; and cold and snowy in winter, when “bracing” is not infrequently less true to the actual conditions than “rigorous.” … A study of the physiographic features of the region, especially of the river terraces, as well as of the human history, leads to the conclusion that there has been a transition from colder or damper climatic conditions two thousand years or more ago to warmer or drier conditions to-day. This transition appears … to be part of a wide-spread climatic change extending at least from Persia and the Caspian Sea on the west to the borders of China proper three thousand miles away on the east.’

One problem with climate change is that it is hard to actually determine whether current occurrences are climatic aberrations or major climatic, and possibly cataclysmic, change. Based on the 1907 article, however, climate change in J&K possibly is nothing new.

Christopher Snedden
6 January 2014

China-Pakistan Collusion? 3 September 2013

China-Pakistan Collusion?                                               3 September 2013

China, India and Pakistan have an interesting triangular relationship. China and Pakistan strategically are very close, with significant trade, considerable Chinese investment in Pakistan, and, most importantly for Pakistan, with China providing advanced military materiel, often at concessionary prices. Allegedly, China also has helped Pakistan develop nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. For Islamabad, China is Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’. For China, a strong Pakistan offers the chance to ‘outflank’ India, particularly in the event of another China-India war. The first such war occurred in 1962, which vicariously encouraged China-Pakistan relations to become closer. The People’s Republic of China was then internationally ‘on the nose’ because of its aggressive communism, with Taiwan the favoured representative for all of ‘China’. Conversely, Pakistan was seen favourably as it was involved with some United States-led military alliances. Arguably, the situation now has reversed, with relations with China highly desired and Pakistan disliked because of its support for terrorists in Afghanistan or against India.

A potential benefit for China of close relations with Pakistan is that the latter could function as a ‘safe’ conduit for moving energy supplies overland to China rather than via the sea. China may be looking to develop an energy corridor from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, in south-western Baluchistan, via Pakistan and the rugged Pakistan-controlled region of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), to Chinese Xinjiang. This route would be considerably shorter than going via the Indian Ocean, South China Sea and mainland China. It also would be more secure: India can control access to the western entrance to the strategic Malacca Strait, through which much Chinese shipping now must pass, because it possesses the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Currently, China and India relations are good, with two-way trade flourishing. Worth some $67 billion, it is heavily in China’s favour, much to India’s chagrin. Otherwise, the China-India relationship is difficult. There are major unresolved issues over their joint border and over possession of India’s Arunachal Pradesh state—Southern Tibet for China—and Aksai Chin, which is under China’s control but claimed by India because it was once part of the (disputed) former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Shaksgam area just north of Aksai Chin, which Pakistan ceded to China in 1963, also is theoretically part of both the Kashmir dispute and the China-India dispute, as India also claims this former area of J&K. Beijing has stated that it is prepared to renegotiate ownership of Shaksgam if India and Pakistan resolve their dispute over J&K. This is unlikely soon. Indeed, China-India relations surpass India-Pakistan relations, with Beijing and New Delhi having completed 15 rounds of discussions since 1981 about their border and territory disputes.

One complication for India in the triangular relationship is the possibility that China and Pakistan might be colluding to India’s detriment. While there is no open-source information to confirm such collusion, it makes strategic sense. Recently, China has been more militarily assertive, even aggressive, along the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) that separates Chinese- and Indian-held territory. Along the Line of Control (LOC) in disputed J&K, Indian and Pakistani exchanges have returned to their pre-2003 ceasefire levels. While the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or the Pakistan Army could undertake these actions autonomously, collusion between them is possible. There have been a number of high-level official China-Pakistan visits in recent years, while Chinese engineers, probably PLA, are helping Pakistani military engineers rebuild the Karakoram Highway (KKH) that crosses Gilgit-Baltistan. This strategic road was rendered impassable by a landslide in 2010, after which a large lake 20-kilometres long appeared. Travellers must now traverse this lake to travel between Kashgar, Xinjiang, and G-B’s largest town, Gilgit.

Interestingly, New Delhi appears prepared to renounce India’s supposed ownership of Gilgit-Baltistan, even though officially this region is an ‘integral part of India’. For India, its long-held way to resolve the India-Pakistan dispute over J&K is to convert the LOC into the international border. By doing so, India nominally would ‘lose’ the two (of J&K’s five) regions that Pakistan has controlled since 1947: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Losing the former region, which is small, would not be significant; losing the latter region, which is large, would be. First, India would forego any chance of directly accessing Afghanistan, with which G-B shares a border in its north. Although such access would be difficult, China is considering constructing a road or rail link from Xinjiang to Afghanistan via the Wakhan Corridor, which runs immediately north of, and would be accessible from, G-B. Currently, India’s only way of accessing Afghanistan is via Iran or Pakistan. Second, it would allow Pakistan and China unchallenged control of G-B and the important Karakoram Highway that physically links both nations. Third, G-B (like Azad Kashmir) has significant hydro-electricity potential, with Pakistan intending to build a dam in this region. The Diamir-Bhasha Dam wall and electrical works will strategically be located in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, which indisputably is part of Pakistan; the bulk of the dam’s water would be stored in disputed G-B. For energy-hungry India, controlling G-B would offer further energy possibilities.

A final interesting aspect of the China-India-Pakistan triangle concerns India’s control of the Arunachal Pradesh/Southern Tibet area. The Tawang Tract in Arunachal Pradesh’s west has long been sacred to Tibetan Buddhists, some of whom speculate that the Dalai Lama will reincarnate there—conveniently outside China’s control. This may partially explain China’s increased hostility in this area. Conversely, India has decided to raise new Mountain Strike Corps comprising 30,000-40,000 soldiers to counter aggressive PLA activities, including by striking Xizang (Tibet). This meshes with one of India’s major ongoing concerns: having to fight a two-front war against China and Pakistan, including in remote mountain areas of J&K and along the LOAC. While currently a remote possibility, strategic circumstances can change quickly.

Christopher Snedden
3 September 2013